After the World Health Organization (WHO ) confirmed three cases of Zika virus in Ahmedabad, health authorities in the state claimed that the government’s ongoing anti-malaria campaign will help in dealing with Zika virus, which is also spread by mosquitoes. However, health experts say that the anti-malaria campaign would not be enough to deal with Zika virus.
“The (Zika) virus does not take time to spread from one area to the other. Anyone can carry it and it can spread anywhere… One cannot use the same anti-malaria campaign to deal with Zika,” said Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s entomologist Dr Vijay Kohli.
“One needs to be vigilant. The authorities should launch programmes to explain the Zika virus to the people. Health officials should look into the matter,” he added. The state government had recently launched an anti-malaria campaign with 2022 as the deadline to make Gujarat free of malaria.
“This (Malaria-free Gujarat campaign) is not enough. Look at Sri Lanka. It is malaria-free, but not free of dengue and chikungunya, both caused by mosquitoes. Malaria has a treatment and there is no treatment for Zika. By just making areas free of mosquitoes, we cannot stop the spread of Zika virus. There has to be another way of tackling Zika,” said Dr Dileep Mavalankar, director, Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH),Gandhinagar.
Explaining the difference between mosquitoes responsible for malaria and those spreading Zika, Dr Vikas Desai of the Urban Health and Climate Resilience Centre in Surat said: “Anopheles mosquito (responsible for spreading malaria) bite at night and generally do not affect more than one person at a given point of time. The dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti), which also carries Zika virus, can effect many people at the same time. Their bite is sharp. So, when you shoo away the mosquito, it goes to another person till it gets the desired amount of blood. So while a single campaign will deal with most of the vector-borne diseases, we must remember that all viruses are different.”